The Stud, an iconic San Francisco gay bar in the South of Market Area, is closing its doors after 50 years, according to its owner.
Michael McElhaney, owner of the establishment at 399 Ninth St., convened a community meeting Sunday, where he disclosed to patrons and employees that the building had been sold and the rent had been raised 300 percent. The Stud likely will close in September.
McElhaney also announced he is pulling out of the business to move back to Hawaii to care for his elderly mother.
"There's a little bit of heartbreak but mostly love; a lot of love," McElhaney said. "It's tough; yeah, really tough."
The community, however, is not ready to let The Stud go. Employees, performers and patrons are rallying to save the business, including an offer by a longtime bartender to pay the first month of the new rent.
"If it goes away, it's just going to be really sad," said Brian Feagins.
Performer Mica Sigourney is looking beyond that, trying to form an ownership group among the bar's closest friends.
"A group of 15 people - drag queens, artists, bar workers, politicos and others - are coming together to form a co-op and attempt to buy the business and keep it at this location," said Sigourney, who has performed at the bar for eight years in the weekly drag show "Some Thing" as alter-ego VivvyAnne ForeverMore.
McElhaney likes the idea and hopes the bar lands in the hands of the community it has served "to create new memories, new generations."
The group, called SOS: Save our Stud, launched a Facebook page and set up an email account — firstname.lastname@example.org — to keep the community informed of its actions and needs. Sigourney is heading up the SOS effort. The group also is asking the city to designate The Stud as a historic landmark.
For now, the bar's future is up in the air, McElhaney said. The bar just last month celebrated 50 years in business. It has been at the current space since 1987.